Exciting news

from Iraq:

Iraq’s presidential council was sworn in Thursday and named Shiite Arab Ibrahim al-Jaafari as interim prime minister, the country’s most powerful position, further consolidating the power shift in postwar Iraq.

and

Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was also sworn in as Iraq’s new interim president, reaching out to Sunnis by urging “our Sunni brothers to participate in the democratic march.”

Saddam Hussein is reported to be depressed.

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A Suitable (and Necessary) Gift for the Head Girl

Grin

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Wal-Mart in Contrary Maryland

I thought we had mentioned a Maryland law passed recently which would have required Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of their payroll on employee health benefits. I can’t find the post, though, so it must have been one of the many lost in the ether of the internet before we learned to copy and save everything before we hit the ‘publish’ button.

The original story

Maryland lawmakers approved legislation that would require Wal-Mart, and only Wal-Mart, to boost spending on health care, several Maryland newspapers reported this week.

“We’re looking for responsible businesses to ante up [and] provide adequate health care,” said Democratic state Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, quoted by the Washington Post.

Lawmakers, according to the Post, claimed they were not singling out the retailing giant when they wrote a bill requiring any organization with more than 10,000 employees in the state to either spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on health benefits, or put the money directly into the state’s health program for the poor.

But Wal-Mart, which has 15,000 workers in Maryland, was the only company that would be affected, because it’s the only company with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland.

UPdate:

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday vowed to veto legislation that would force Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on employee health care benefits.
“This is a grave precedent,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said of the bill in a brief interview with The Washington Times. “Every business in Maryland should be up in arms.”
The governor likely would use the veto after the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn Monday night. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retail chain, would get a reprieve at least until January, when the General Assembly would reconvene and attempt to override the veto.

It appears that they have enough votes to override the veto, though of course, everybody will be lobbying everybody else in the usual way, so things may change.

“It is not safe to assume that the veto will be overridden. Things can happen,” said Ronald W. Wineholt, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Wineholt said the legislation would make Maryland the only state to impose a payroll tax on companies to provide health care.
He credited union lobbyists with persuading Maryland lawmakers to embrace the act and predicted that the bill, if enacted, would lead to similar mandates for all businesses.
“It’s easy to spend other people’s money and that’s what this bill does,” Mr. Wineholt said.

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Schiavo Memo, again

On March 20, Washington Post journalist Mike Allen reported that the infamous ‘Schiavo Memo’ was distributed only to Republican Senators.’ Further down in the story, he refers to it again, this time as an ‘An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators.’

The emphasis in the above sentence is my own.

We now know that Senator Mel Martinez (R, Florida) handed the memo to Senator Harkin (D, Iowa). And since the memo had to have come to the press through the hands of that Democratic Senator, the original reporters involved in the story must have known that it had not been distributed ‘only’ to Republicans.

Today Mike Allen reports that Senator Martinez’ office “is investigating whether an aide who resigned this week distributed a memo about the Terri Schiavo case to other Senate offices, and whether any other aides in the senator’s office had seen it.”

Powerline observes,

“On the question whether the Martinez staff memo had been distributed to other Senate offices, Allen himself should have had the answer when he reported in his March 20 story that the memo was distributed “only to Republican senators.” Three weeks since he wrote that story, Allen himself apparently can’t identify one such Republican senator. Allen omits to mention that, as of today, the only senator reported to have received the memo from Martinez or his office is Democrat Tom Harkin.”

MSM sloppiness aside for the moment (we will come back to it), having Senator Martinez’ office investigate itself may be rather like having our two youngest children investigate the incident of the ice cubes in the bed.

On March 26, Josh Clayborn of In the Agora blog, reported that four Republican Senate staff members had contacted him and “accused a renegade aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) of distributing forged “talking points” to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship… Two of the four GOP staffers tell ITA they were eyewitnesses to the exchange.”

Two of those staff members said they were from Senator Martinez’ office, two from Senator Santorum’s office. However, they refused to give their names or name the Reid aide they were accusing. For these and other reasons Michelle Malkin immediately expressed strong doubts on their reliability, and Josh Claybourn actually agreed with her, apologizing for publishing too hastily. In fact, four days later he had completely retracted his post.

CNN even read a portion of that retraction on air:

“I publicly apologize for posting unfounded accusations, and I hope ABC News and the Washington Post follow my lead.””

Michelle Malkin wonders

“Did Darling give a fake tip to Claybourn to try to divert attention from himself? If so, who were his co-conspirators? Who exactly spoke to the Prowler and from whom did the Prowler’s sources get their information?”

At least one Democrat is calling for an independent investigation, and because of these false tips from Republican staff members, I agree.

Senator Martinez’ (and at least some staff members) role in all this has either been unbelievably incompetent. The memo had several spelling errors, gave the wrong bill number, and portions of it were lifted from a pro-life website. Sen. Martinez claims he had it in his pocket but didn’t know what it was, yet handed it to Senator Harkin during a discussion on this very issue- that’s just not plausible. If not incompetent, Martinez and/or his staff have been duplicitous. I’m not impressed. There should be a political price to pay for that, and I expect that it will be paid.

However, reporters in this story have also been rather less than stellar.

Michelle Malkin, again, sums that up- after first sharing a truly delicious email exchange she herself had with reporter MIke Allen.

Although he ignored several emails she sent him asking for information on this story (and asking for explanations of discrepancies), he finally emailed her with this:

“Howdy–I’m doing an article for tomorrow about what senators are saying about the Schiavo memo–I’d love to include your comments–I’d be interested in how you took an interest in this, where you think the memo originated, why you think it came from Democrats, etc.–We remain anxious to pin down the author and if you have clues, I’d love to pursue them–Appreciatively, Mike”

Since Michelle never said that she thought the memo came from Democrats, it’s a little curious that this trained, professional, expert journalist would be asking her to explain why she thinks it did. Isn’t it? I wonder why he would make that assumption? Here’s a portion of Michelle’s reply to him:

“If you’ve read my blog posts on this subject, you’ll know that I have never claimed that it came from Democrats. Other bloggers have suggested that. I have not. You should also know from reading my blog commentary that I was the one who publicly chastised blogger Josh Claybourn of In the Agora for
irresponsibly reporting that anonymous Republican sources had accused a Democrat staffer in Harry Reid’s office of being the source. See http://michellemalkin.com/archives/001912.htm

I have no clue who wrote the memo and neither, apparently, do you. That is
why this remains a story of interest, if not to mainstream media, then at
least to the pajama-clad bloggers who watch the watchdogs.”

I have no doubt that Senator Martinez and certain staff members will be paying a political price for their ineptitude. Indeed, at least one staff member has already lost his job.
Several bloggers have been embarrassed by jumping to conclusions and finding the conclusions had no supporting structure- thereby falling on their (our) faces. So far as I know, all of them have apologized immediately.

Michelle Malkin says:

“A related issue was ABC News’ and the Post’s mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP “party leaders” even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that. After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted. Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.”

Over at Slate, Kaus points out that:

“Allen doesn’t come off looking too good in this latest account. a) The memo was apparently not “distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders,” as Allen’s initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was–at least judging from today’s account–handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn’t in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn’t explain why he told Howie Kurtz he “did not call them talking points or a Republican memo” when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more “carefully worded” account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote

In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as “a great political issue” …

This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports.”

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More Memo Madness

Michelle Malkin points out (warning: graphic language censored, but still recognizable) that she never claimed that the memo came from a Democrat- she only claimed we didn’t have enough information yet to know who had the memo:

For me, the salient questions always centered on what exactly ABC News and the Washington Post knew or didn’t know before they hyped the GOP politicization angle in the midst of the wrenching Schiavo debate.

A related issue was ABC News’ and the Post’s mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP “party leaders” even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that. After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted. Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.

Michelle also points out that while bloggers were all over the board on this, the reporters responsible for this story have also altered their claims a goodly number of times:

“The search for answers can be messy. Bloggers were at both their best and worst in this episode. But it was the MSM that failed to play it straight in the first place. As usual, Mickey Kaus gets the last word:

a) The memo was apparently not “distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders,” as Allen’s initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was–at least judging from today’s account–handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn’t in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn’t explain why he told Howie Kurtz he “did not call them talking points or a Republican memo” when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more “carefully worded” account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote:
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as “a great political issue” …

This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don’t know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it’s hard to believe it wasn’t given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen’s story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole “memo” fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC’s Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document–as if senators never consider what is a good political issue, as if that’s a no-no in a democracy. (Phoning Martin Luther King Jr. in jail was a “good political issue” for Sen. John Kennedy–and if you were trying to convince him to make the call that’s something you’d have pointed out!)

But certainly whatever legitimate valence Allen’s ‘memo’ story had depended almost entirely on the impression that the memo revealed and represented the strategy of the GOP leaders who pushed the Schiavo bill. If all that was involved was a staff memo Martinez gave to Harkin, Allen’s story was way out of whack.

And over at Wizbang, a commentor wonders why, since Tom Harkin knew he was the Democratic source, and he knew which Republican he got the memo from, he didn’t come forward two weeks ago, and how somewhere between Tom Harkin and the reporters, Freshman SEnator Martinez became the Republican Leadership.

Another commentor wonders why the aide who wrote the memo did not come forward two weeks ago.

I wonder how likely is it, really, that Senator Martinez had the memo in his pocket and had no idea what it was, how it got there, or what was on it, and that no other Republicans had seen it.

And that first Wizbang commentor mentioned also points out the discrepancy between the way the media handled this memo and the way they handled that Democratic memo about politicizing the Iraqi War intelligence investigation and using it as an opportunity to ‘get Bush’ by postponing key components of the investigation until closer to the election year.

Says “Just Me:”

“But you have to love the MSM-get some memos that show the Dems behaving badly, and their job is to find the leak and get him fired, and totally ignore the content of the memos, get memos that reflect badly on the GOP and worry about the content instead how they got it”

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